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Fertilizing advice, please

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Post  Megan on 6/15/2010, 8:21 pm

I need your help, please. I have never attempted to change soil chemistry before, and I don't want to mess this up. I tested my soil over the weekend with one of those HD kits.

pH: 6, maybe a teensy bit higher, but definitely not 7.
Potash: Fine
Nitrogen: Very Low
Phosphorus: Very Low

Yikes. I bought some organic bone meal and dried blood and fertilized according to the package directions. I'd have to go back and look to be sure, but I think it was 1/2 Tb and 1 TB per square foot, respectively. I literally used a measuring spoon and tapped it out to spread it as evenly as I could over each SF, then watered well.

What I am wondering is, with the "very low" readings, was that enough? Should I hit it with more bone meal and dried blood, or just wait? Should I test again and if so, how long should I wait? My plants seem healthy.... the lower leaves of my Lincoln peas are a little yellowish, but everything else (including the beans and corn, which I understand to be heavy feeders) seem fine.

Thanks
Megan
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Post  coot on 6/15/2010, 9:30 pm

I'm interested in hearing the advice as well.
Megan, I did test my soil per your recommendation and my soil is perfectly neutral--right in the middle. Not acidic enough for my maters, so I picked up a bag of Espoma Garden-Tone (all organic). Haven't used it yet...waiting to see if you get any professional advice first.

p.s. Looks like your test kit was a bit more comprehensive than mine.
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Post  Megan on 6/15/2010, 9:36 pm

Hi Coot,

I got the kit that has 4 little test tubes and capsules.

I am not really concerned about the pH -- seems good enough?? -- but worried about the nitrogen and phosphorus.
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Post  Chopper on 6/15/2010, 10:54 pm

One of the best organic ways to add nitrogen to your plants FAST is by using fish emulsion. It is a soil and a foliar feed. Just add the recommended amount (plus a teeny more) to a watering can and pour over the plants. The leaves use it and then it is available in the soil too. It is usually something like 5-1-1 but also has a lot of micro nutrients and is easily used by the plants.

I would not be stingy with the bone meal. Depending on who you listen to it is either a great source or an iffy source for phosphorus. But, it is a pretty benign source and it's not like you can "burn" your plants by adding a little extra.
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Post  aspiegardner on 6/16/2010, 11:48 pm

The only thing where my ph is really off is the berries and its been a challenge to get it acidic enough.
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Post  nancy on 6/17/2010, 9:08 am

I've been making a fertilizer with beer, fish emulsion, epsom salt, dish soap, and water. I spray it directly on my plant leaves about once a week. The roma tomato has a dozen tomatoes on it! Woo hoo!
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Post  coot on 6/17/2010, 9:14 am

@nancy wrote:I've been making a fertilizer with beer, fish emulsion, epsom salt, dish soap, and water. I spray it directly on my plant leaves about once a week. The roma tomato has a dozen tomatoes on it! Woo hoo!

Can you supply a recipe with measurements? Also, do you spray this on all your plants or just tomatoes? (I wonder if I could substitute apple vinegar...I hate to share my beer. Fertilizing advice, please Icon_lol)
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Post  LaFee on 6/17/2010, 9:22 am

Coot, cheap beer is for the garden.

Good beer is for you.

Repeat....
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Post  nancy on 6/17/2010, 9:40 am

The recipe is from "Little House in the Suburbs" and calls for a sprayer attachment for the hose. I don't have a hose at the community garden, I water out of milk jugs. So I have modified the recipe and use it in spray bottles from Ikea. The actual recipe (in my own words) is:

a can of beer
6 oz. water
1/2 cup fish emulsion
2 tbsp. liquid soap
4 tbsp. epson salt

Put it in the hose end attachment and set it for 6 oz. per gallon. (I mix it in a milk jug and dilute it in the spray bottle.) Spray the leaves, you aren't actually watering with this. Use it all - it can't be stored. If the fish emulsion is too "fishy" for you, substitute with kelp. Both can be found on the same shelf at th store. I bought my fish emulsion at Ace Hardware. And if you can't bear to part with your beer (I completely understand this sacrifice), buy the super cheap 22 oz. can at the convenient store. It's pretty stinky, but has all the good ingredients the babies will love. The recipe also says to use it every 2 weeks, but we've had a lot of rain this week, so I only left a week between feedings. And I feed everything with this, not just tomatoes. Best wishes!!
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Post  coot on 6/17/2010, 10:15 am

I finally found out yesterday that my beans are suffering from flea beetles. (I'm like "I haven't seen any beetles, just these little gnats...") My daughter said I was having a "blonde" moment.

Would any of these ingredients be effective against flea beetles?
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Post  evan00008 on 6/17/2010, 12:18 pm

You could always use Mirical Grow unless your an organic garden?
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Post  junequilt on 6/17/2010, 1:19 pm

I've heard from various sources that those home pH test kits are not very reliable. You may want to have your mix tested by your state extension service.

Coot, diatomaceous earth would reduce your flea beetle population.
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Post  herbarium on 6/17/2010, 2:09 pm

The only time I have ever tested soil was to determine the pH. It was in Alaska and there was reason to believe the soil was too acidic.
With Square Foot Gardening as long as you are using at least three and preferably five types of compost and adding more everytime you plant I don't see a reason to test. I grow blueberries in our alkaline soil and add sulfur a couple times per year to keep the soil more acidic. I also planted them under a spruce tree which helps with soil acidity.
Organic matter moderates the soil pH.
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Post  junequilt on 6/17/2010, 5:30 pm

If you really do have a phosphate deficiency, another thing to remember is that whatever you use to correct it will have to be placed in the root zone of the plants. Phosphates don't move through the soil like other plant nutrients.

Here in South Carolina our soil test reports include not only pH but NPK analysis and recommendations for corrections. The results are highly accurate. Thank you, Clemson!

I hardly ever have my soil tested since after 19 years I pretty much know what's going on with it based on what I see my plants doing. All I'm saying is that if you really have to test, a home kit may not give you the accurate results you need. The kit chemicals have a short shelf life and if they're not fresh, you'll get a skewed reading. So I -- personally -- would not make adjustments based on the reading from a home test kit.
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